425.Reaper.Harrison.Wise.050508Hey everybody! It’s Easter Sunday! What better day to talk about the devil, huh? In Martin Scorsese’s controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ, the devil appears before Jesus in the guise of a lion, a flame, and in the last temptation, an innocent looking cherub. In the CW series Reaper, we only get Ray Wise. Scorsese’s movie may be the more important work, but I’ll take Ray Wise over any of those other Satans any day of the week.

Wise, most famous as the lecherous Leland Palmer in the early ’90s surreal nighttime drama, Twin Peaks, is having so much fun playing the dark lord; it’s a shame that more people aren’t watching Reaper. The show is closing out its first season “on the bubble” for renewal. That means the network executives in charge are unsure if they’ll pick up the show for a second season, and are waiting to see how Reaper does ratings-wise over the course of the next few weeks before making their decision.

Come on, people! Don’t let them cancel one of the best shows on TV! The CW even moved it off Tuesday night to give it a fair shot (because Tuesdays are owned by the American Idol juggernaut). The show now airs Thursdays at 9:00 pm. So instead of worrying about Idol, Reaper has to deal with CSI, Grey’s Anatomy and the two most respected comedies on television, The Office and 30 Rock.

On second thought, maybe the CW has already given up on the show.

For those of you unfamiliar with it (which apparently is a lot of you), Reaper had one of the most promising premises of the season. Bret Harrison stars as Sam, a young man who learns on his 21st birthday that his parents promised his soul to the devil before he was born. When the devil (Wise) comes calling for Sam, it turns out it’s not his soul he wants, but his services. He assigns Sam the task of capturing evil souls that have escaped from Hell and sending them back to the underworld. With the help of his two best buds, Sock (the hilarious Tyler Labine) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez), who work with Sam at a Home Depot-type box store, the threesome become slacker ghostbusters. However, the show isn’t all supernatural hokum. In fact, much of the character development revolves around Sam pining for Andi (Missy Peregrym), the girl he’s been in love with for years, but is afraid to tell because of the risks of ruining their friendship.

While Reaper could have easily become a “monster of the week” show, the producers have taken the smart route and made the soul-catching secondary to the interplay between all of the characters. Sam and Sock are practically brothers, and the romantic tension between Sam and Andi is very palpable. Yet, the most satisfying relationship on the show is the one between Sam and the devil. This relationship could have easily been played for laughs or scares, but Harrison and Wise each bring out an undercurrent of loneliness that creates a mood of poignancy between them. The devil, in many ways, gives Sam the courage he needs/lacks to face everyday life (particularly how to deal with Andi). He also provides some twisted guidance, taking on the role of a surrogate father, even though Sam hates his guts. The devil, on the other hand, has become very fond of Sam. Perhaps missing some of the goodness he lost thousands of years ago, Sam provides the devil with the false notion that he is doing good by having Sam go out and catch deadly murderers and monsters. Should Reaper be given a second chance, it would be wonderful to see how this twisted (and downright funny) relationship develops. The writers’ strike seemed to cut the show off at the knees just as it was finding its stride.

This past year, we saw two series about slacker guys who work in box stores and who are suddenly bestowed with otherworldly powers. I couldn’t get through the third episode of Chuck and canceled the season pass by week five. NBC has decided to give this less superior show a second life by renewing and “relaunching” it in the fall. The CW, having decided to put all of its marketing muscle behind Gossip Girl and (why, why, why?) One Tree Hill, will probably wait until May to make its decision. Until then, it’s up to schmoes like me to drum up the praise and plead with all of you who enjoy sci-fi/horror/buddy/romantic dramedies to watch Reaper. Head on over to the Reaper website and get caught up on past episodes. Then start watching the show on Thursday nights, beginning this week. Otherwise, I just may have to send Ray Wise over to your house to convince you to watch this show. Trust me, you don’t want that.